New Mac Mini iTunes server

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Boyd01, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #1
    I have a new base model Mini arriving tomorrow and plan to dedicate it solely as an iTunes server for my Apple TV and MacBook Air. My iTunes library is a little over 500gb and growing fast as I rip my large DVD collection in Handbrake.

    I have three identical 3tb USB3 external drives that clock around 160MB/s in the Blackmagic speed test, and will use one as the primary media drive and the other two as rotating backups with Carbon Copy Cloner. Everything is connected by gigabit ethernet, and my MBA uses the fast 802.11ac wifi when it's not on ethernet. I will be connecting the Mini to a little 15" HDMI monitor and wireless keyboard so it won't be "headless".

    So I'm pondering the best way to set this up…. am thinking about cloning the Mini internal drive (including the recovery partition) to the 3tb external drive and removing any stuff I don't need (like iLife, etc), then using the external as a boot drive. That would allow me to boot directly from both of my backup drives in the event of a failure.

    Does this make sense? I have read that the internal 500gb drive in the base model Mini isn't very fast, so I assume that the Mini would boot and load programs faster from the 160MB/s external. About how much space will a clone of the internal drive consume? Are there any reasons why this would be a bad idea? FWIW, these external drives (Seagate Backup Plus Desktop) can also be used with a Thunderbolt dock, but there is no speed advantage (I've tested them), so I plan to use USB3.

    Also, what kind of performance should I expect copying files over gigabit ethernet if I enable file sharing on the Mini? If file sharing is enabled, will it degrade iTunes sharing performance on the Mini? Would this work better if I install MacOSX server on the Mini? I don't need any of the other services that the server software offers, just the ability to copy files to the Mini over gigabit ethernet.

    Thanks in advance. I imagine I can figure this stuff out myself tomorrow, but would appreciate the experience of others while I wait for it to arrive. :)
     
  2. scottsjack macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2010
    Location:
    Arizona
    #2
    I clone the drives on my MBP and mini occasionally. The clone takes up almost the same amount of room. Eventually you'll probably want to install an internal SSD. That makes a huge difference, as in really huge.

    The idea of an external media drive with rotating CCC backups containing both the OS and the media drive is a good one. Obviously 500GB+3TB is more than 3TB but you'll be OK for awhile.

    Your biggest problem will be the hideous lack of USB ports compared to similarly priced PCs. If I plugged everything in I've got my mini would have the following USB3 ports filled;

    1. Keyboard
    2. Mouse
    3. Printer
    4. iPhone dock
    5. TM backup #2 (#1 is a Time Capsule)
    6. CF reader for my camera
    7. OWC Mercury Rack Pro #1 for data drives
    8. OWC Mercury Rack Pro #2 to CCC data backups

    My mini is only four ports short!
     
  3. Boyd01 thread starter macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #3
    Thanks, but that doesn't sound right, unless I don't understand what you're saying. I have cloned the 512gb SSD on my MBA using CCC (current version) and the clone is only 330gb - same as the amount of space actually used on the internal SSD. In other words, it does not clone the free space, only the space that has been used. Now I assume that a brand new mini will only have something like 30 or 40gb on the hard drive, so that would just be a drop in the bucket on a 3TB drive.

    I really don't want to get into swapping SSD's, I know how fast they are since I have a MBA. But this mini will only run iTunes - nothing else. If iTunes is just sitting there and running, I wouldn't think there would be much disk access other than the media files themselves. The 160MB/s speed of the external drive is already more than gigabit ethernet can handle, so it seems like I would be fine there.

    I'm OK with USB ports - I need one for the wireless keyboard/trackpad receiver, one for the media drive and one for the backup drive. That leaves one to spare. Again, this is just going to be an iTunes server, it shouldn't need any other peripherals. :)
     
  4. Boyd01 thread starter macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #4
    Now that I have the Mini, here's a followup, in case anyone is interested.

    For the time being, I am just booting off the internal drive and using the external disk for my iTunes library. The internal drive is faster than I expected - Blackmagic clocks it a little over 100MB/s. I had seen another post here where someone suggested a figure more like 70MB/s IIRC. Anyway, the machine feels pretty responsive as is so I'm leaving well enough alone.

    Right out of the box, the internal 500GB hard drive only had 20gb of data on it. I have setup time machine to automatically backup the internal drive to my 2TB Airport Time Capsule. I am setting up a scheduled Carbon Copy Cloner task to clone the 3TB external media drive to a second 3TB external drive every night. Periodically I will rotate between two different backup drives and store them in separate locations.

    This my first experience with the mini and so far I'm very pleased. It's actually a little bigger and heavier than I expected (not a problem though). It does a nice job serving up my music, tv shows and movies to my MacBook Air and Apple TV with home sharing. I have it connected to a little 15" widescreen monitor and the audio is connected to my home stereo system, so I can also use it directly with iTunes. Am using a cheap Kensington wireless keyboard with a built-in trackpad.

    So I'm happy - now I can watch stuff on my Apple TV without making sure that my MacBook Air is on with iTunes running. And now I don't have to worry about the problems that sometimes occurred on my MBA when I had my library on a network drive. :)
     
  5. keeper macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
    #5
    Why don't you simply use the mini directly and control it via the remote app from iPhone/iPad and screen share when required from the air?

    Provides far more flexibility..
     
  6. Boyd01 thread starter macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #6
    Don't have an iPad, but I do have the remote app on my iPhone and it works well. But why should I limit myself to that when I can use a screen? I have an old 23" Samsung 720p monitor that I got around 2004 - hooked it up with the HDMI to DVI adapter that was included with the Mini and it actually looks very good.

    Modified my stereo cabinet yesterday so the mini and hard drives are hidden inside and the screen is sitting on top, so I can watch movies in iTunes in the dining room. I like this setup, and the iTunes user interface on a large screen is a lot nicer than the barebones remote app.
     

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